Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Jenny and Tyler combine to write charming folk songs

November 15, 2009

I’m really picky about female vocalists; it’s just the way I am. That’s why my discovery of Jenny and Tyler is so exciting. The former part of the moniker has a wonderful voice that elevates the duo’s acoustic-based folk tunes to a level that wouldn’t be achieved simply by the rest of the album alone.

That’s not to minimize Tyler’s contributions at all. He contributes the guitar work that dominates the songwriting on this album. And it’s great folk songwriting that occasionally transcends the barriers of the genre and moves into epic pop song mode (as “The Deepest Part of Me” does).  From the charming and quirky “One Eyed Cat” to the plucky, precise “Simple” and through to the traditional folk strum and sway of “Love Through Me,” the songwriting is varied and entertaining. A couple of the songs take a few listens to attach to the brain in a meaningful way, and one or two never make it, but the majority of the eleven tracks are instantly hummable and memorable.

And that hummability is due in large part to Jenny and Tyler’s vocals. Jenny’s aforementioned prowess populates songs like “Love Through Me” with an unadorned, clear, beautiful tones. Tyler’s voice covers tracks like the sweeping “Do Not Follow Your Heart” and the remorseful “All Over Again.” The two voices work great together, meshing seamlessly when they need to and contrasting when that effect is desired (the beginning of “Simple”). The two voices give the album a balanced feel and lend poignancy to the work as a whole.

The album is filled out with piano, strings, and drums that fit the style well. Their contributions are almost always ornamental, but they fit well within the context of the guitar-based songwriting. The piano on “This Isn’t a Dream” is pretty forceful, and the dainty ivories on “Red Carpet” add a lot to the songwriting, but on the whole the other instruments are secondary. This provides ease during live shows, as a guitar is all that is necessary, but future albums would benefit from more meaningful contributions from these instruments, as they’ve showed that they like to include them anyway.

If you have the Weepies and the Welcome Wagon on your iPod , this is your album of the month. Acoustic-based folk by a guy and a girl has rarely been so poignant without becoming gooey and repulsive. I highly recommend This Isn’t a Dream to those who love guy/girl harmonies, folk guitar, and happiness.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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